Friday, September 13, 2013

To Purchase a Soul

Love covers a multitude of sins. The more disposed the soul is in making sacrifices, the more that soul can absorb sin and its effects upon the soul. St. Paul said as much when he told the Corinthians, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” The Triumph of the Cross lies in this.

Meet Elisabeth Leseur, a Cross bearer for her husband:

On July 31, 1889, Elisabeth married a wealthy man by the name of Felix Leseur. Felix was a diplomat and a well-known doctor in France. At the age of thirty-two, after they got married, Elisabeth experienced a kind of second conversion. As such, she took her faith in Christ much more seriously.

In fact, she carried out charitable projects for the poor and helped fund other charities. More importantly, Elisabeth’s deep spirituality was one that included spiritual sacrifices (acts of self-denial for other people’s conversions). One source describes her spirituality this way:

“She organized her spiritual life around a disciplined pattern of prayer, meditation, reading, sacramental practice, and writing. Charity was the organizing principle of her asceticism. In her approach to mortification, she followed Francis de Sales who recommended moderation and internal, hidden strategies instead of external practices.”

As Elisabeth was becoming more Catholic, her husband was becoming more atheistic; more than atheistic, he had developed an aversion to the Catholic priesthood and the Church as a whole. But before they married, Elisabeth noticed that Felix was no longer a practicing Catholic. By all appearances, he seemed to have lost his faith. Nevertheless, he promised her that he would not undermine her faith. Needless to say, the more Felix became fervent in his atheism, the more he disregarded that promise.

Although they were believed to be happily married, the two spouses became rivals in many respects. Elisabeth built up a Catholic apologetics library in their home while Felix added to his collection of atheistic and anti-Catholic literature. In fact, he wrote against Lourdes, the 1858 Marian apparition site, saying that it was a fraud. His views were published in an anti-Catholic newspaper in Paris.

What words could not accomplish, spiritual sacrifice could. Elisabeth would have to do something other than rely on persuasive arguments against atheism. The incision required, had to go deeper. ----Our Lord once told Saint Faustina, “You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.” And it was the power of prayer and suffering that Mrs. Leseur put into effect for the spiritual welfare of Mr. Leseur.

To make a long story short, Elisabeth was diagnosed with cancer in 1905. From there, it went downhill for her: ----“In 1907 her health deteriorated to the extent that she was forced to lead a primarily sedentary life, receiving visitors and directing her household from a chaise lounge. In 1911 she had surgery and radiation for a malignant tumor, recovered, and then was bedridden by July of 1913.”

Less than a year later, the hour of her death approached. Elisabeth, on her deathbed, made this astonishing prediction to her husband Felix:

"I am absolutely certain that when you return to God, you will not stop on the way because you never do things by halves.... You will someday become a priest.”

Felix, however, reassured her that his atheistic convictions had not changed. Still, she repeated what she had said and died. Elisabeth died of cancer in May of 1914. ----After her death, Dr. Leseur came across a note written to him in her papers. It said:

“In 1905, I asked almighty God to send me sufficient sufferings to purchase your soul. On the day that I die, the price will have been paid. Greater love than this no woman has than she who lay down her life for her husband.’"

Incredulous, the atheistic, anti-clerical doctor dismissed this as pious sentiments of a dying woman. Nevertheless, he grieved her loss by visiting Lourdes, one place they had visited during their honeymoon. It was then, that the unexpected happened.

Meet Dominican priest, Fr. Felix Leseur:

The once proud atheist and anti-Catholic doctor received the fullness of the gift of faith when he visited Lourdes shortly after Elizabeth’s death

A few years after his wife’s death in 1919, he became a Dominican novice. He was then ordained to the priesthood in 1923 and spent a good deal of his life speaking about his wife, Elisabeth, spiritual writings.

Fr. Felix Leseur gave a retreat for Bishop Fulton Sheen in 1924. And when Sheen told this story, he concluded by saying: "I tell you, it is not often you hear a priest say: 'As my dear wife once said…'”